The origin and evolution of my Sunday brunches
Every Sunday, you’ll likely find my friend Tolu at brunch somewhere. She might be at Eric Kayser alone, catching up with a former colleague at Pitstop, or hosting close-knit friends at her apartment in Victoria Island. It was no surprise that when she came to spend the weekend at mine sometime in February 2021, she was itching for us to go out to brunch on Sunday. Another friend of mine was around at the time, and we collectively agreed to spend our Sunday morning at Orchid Bistro, Ikeja GRA.
We spent the time talking about anything and everything, catching up on our individual travails, and running commentary on the food. A colleague of mine was scheduled to visit me that day, so she joined us at Orchid Bistro instead. I appreciated how chill and relaxing the outing went and commented on how I’d love to experience it more often. The only problem was that regularly leaving my house wasn’t something I was keen on doing. Tolu pointed out that I could make it work in my space and I just needed to figure out the food. I reached out to my assistant, Chinelo, and the hunt for a chef began.
Pre-pandemic Paystack encouraged Stacks to live close to the office, including offering housing grants to assist anyone who chooses to move to a place within a certain distance from the office. Just before the COVID lockdowns commenced in 2020, we had two apartments ready within the vicinity for those who would like to move in, knowing fully well that most people likely didn’t have their spaces adequately set up for remote work, especially when it comes to internet connectivity and power. By the time the lockdowns took effect, a decent number of Stacks (including me) lived within walking distance from each other.
As the lockdowns eased up, my space slowly became a hub of sorts, with friends and colleagues sometimes choosing to come work from mine, convene for an evening stroll, or hang out with other colleagues. This helped in a number of ways, including helping to foster camaraderie at a time when most of the world was for all intents and purposes, lonely.
As the world continued to open up in 2021 and people returned to their regular lives, average foot traffic at my place remained greater than in pre-pandemic times, and a glaring benefit of hosting brunch once a week at mine meant that I was able to intentionally concentrate all my people-ing to that day.
With the help of Chinelo and several chef trials later, we settled on one and kicked things off on the 22nd of August, 2021. It was quite the large group. Eight people, all of them colleagues except one. Given that it was my first, I winged it. There were some fundamentals established from day one, however, that have stayed the same. Brunch starts at 11 am. It’s a four-course affair (breakfast, small bites, lunch, and dessert). Bottomless mimosas!
My preference for punctuality meant I actively noted when guests arrived and prioritized those who came on time for future invites. When I moved to my new place and had a “proper” dining area, the TV stayed off during brunch to encourage more interpersonal activity. Eventually, I also deprioritized games as I felt they were a lazy crutch often relied upon to fill the silence when an inherently diverse group of people could instead engage in enriching conversations, share experiences, and learn from each other.
Over time, I’ve also learned to be aware of and appreciate the little things that come together to make the overall experience unique.
Swapping footwear for socks at the door and washing hands: Sometime in 2019, a friend invited me to a small get-together at her place. When I arrived, I was offered a pair of socks so that I wouldn’t have to walk barefoot on possibly cold tiles after taking off my shoes. I thought that was cool, and I started looking for ways to incorporate the same in my space. I like to casually sit on the floor in my house without giving thought to whether there’s a shoe stain to avoid or not. Eventually, the socks policy went into full effect for everyone with a reason to be in my space - friends, artisans, staff, etc. Requiring guests to wash their hands before interacting with the space is a holdover from the COVID-19 pandemic and is one I don’t intend letting go of soon. Over time, I realized that this ritual helped create some shared baseline amongst guests such that at its completion, it lowered the anxiety barrier to interacting with everyone else, especially when it’s the person’s first time in the same room with them.
Rewarding guests with an album of shots from their visit: Mid last year, I decided to get back to being intentional with my photography. I work well with routines, and what better routine is there to practice the craft for someone who’s almost always at home? Brunch, of course. I try to capture moments of guests interacting with themselves and having fun. Once brunch is over, I quickly export the pictures to my laptop and fire up Lightroom to sort through the ones I like. I then edit, export, and upload to a Google Photos album, which I share with the guests. Not only do you get to come over and chill with interesting people, you also get to keep an album of memories. On my part, I get better at framing shots, learn a new trick or two about using Lightroom, and get to relive the day’s activities from looking through the shots. Recall my friend Tolu from the start of this piece - she emigrated earlier this year, and this is a group shot from her last Sunday in Lagos.
Chef’s menu introduction: After breakfast is served (usually by noon), the Chef comes out of the kitchen to address the room and go over the day’s menu as well as talk about the concessions or substitutions that have been made to account for dietary constraints, if any.
House tours: First-time guests are treated to a tour of the entire space, delivered by a fellow guest. They get a walkthrough of my thought process behind the overall design and layout and also get introduced to my art collection. There’s a whiteboard in my study that has been hijacked by guests signing their names on it. This usually happens on the tour cos when they get to the study, it’s right there, begging to have their names added to it.
- Cats: Do I need to give more context to this one? Luci’s babies were born mid-2020, and given that they were raised at a time of heightened foot traffic at mine, as expressed earlier, they got used to being around people and enjoy coming to play with guests, or participating in the conversation by sitting on the table (side eye to Stripe).
The conversations we have are largely spontaneous, and each Sunday touches on a variety of topics. The flow is dependent on the people in the room and what they feel like discussing or debating at the time and it’s almost impossible to predict how each instance will go. In a recent gathering, someone touched on the subject of porn addiction - a topic eerily reminiscent of this tweet, which while uncalled for, earned itself a pile-on that presented an interesting case of context collapse.
In the months after Stripe’s acquisition of Paystack closed, Shola sometimes asked me in our one on ones, if I have found a way to translate money into happiness. I think this is it.